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Got 'em, smoked 'em
COOK COUNTY | Two arrested after carefully tended pot farm worth up to $5 million found in suburban Cook County Forest Preserve

Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by DAN ROZEK

Aligned in neat rows, the crops were carefully tended by workers who rigged makeshift irrigation systems and lived next to their fields in camps that included tents, cots, electric generators and even homemade furniture.
But Tuesday was harvest day for at least 20,000 marijuana plants being grown illegally in a Cook County Forest Preserve near Barrington.
Police swept into the Crabtree Nature Center, tearing down and then burning the plants being grown in at least 11 well-hidden plots in the 1,600-acre park. Bernard Rangel and Jose Verra, who were arrested earlier for allegedly tending the plants, are now facing felony charges that include illegal drug cultivation and criminal damage to government land.
It was one of the largest marijuana farms ever uncovered in Cook County -- and it was all on forest preserve land.
"This drug organization set up shop on public property," said Richard Waszak, chief of the Cook County Forest Preserve Police.
The operation was sophisticated. Small generators powered pumps that drew water to irrigate the plants from a lake "thousands of feet" away, Waszak said. Garden hoses and several small hand-dug reservoirs also were used to keep the plants growing.
"You have distinct rows, just like at a farm," Waszak said.
In addition to Rangel and Verra, both 23, police said they are searching for more suspects.
The large marijuana crop is a sign the forest preserve district doesn't have enough people working in the preserves who can spot trouble, Commissioner Forrest Claypool said. "Obviously, you have a problem if people can move in, set up shop and grow marijuana," he said.
District spokesman Steve Mayberry disputed Claypool's assessment, noting that forest preserve police and other workers don't routinely patrol off-trail areas.
The operation was uncovered when an intern doing biological research in the park found several men constructing an irrigation system, Waszak said.
The street value of the drugs could top $5 million, officials said.


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